Sex, Food, and Sex with Food
David Doran

It used to be that sex was the mysterious subject not discussed by women socially. A woman's sexuality was unpleasant and forbidden, but at the same time mysterious and fascinating. Sex was the topic in the foreground of women's minds, yet remained in the unexplored depths of conversation. Ever since the sexual revolution, though, food has been replacing sex as women's secret subject. Strong desires to eat replaced the intense, repressed desires to "do it," and eating became the thing about which every woman would fantasize but not discuss. By putting sex and food together in the category of erotic forbidden pleasures, the two became linked in a way. Today the act of eating is frequently compared to the act of having sex. The association is largely based on the taboo status of the two topics.

In the 1950s, the women of America had yet to discover their hidden sexuality. Rosalyn Meadow and Lillie Weiss write that "[s]ex was both forbidden and unattainable, a subject of fantasy and mystery, with the promise of delicious ecstasy at some illusive future time"(51). As women learned more about it, sex shed the guilt-ridden stigma of a taboo and passed it on to food. Jeremy Iggers provides an appropriate analogy: "In the fifties, good girls didn't have sex; today good girls don't have chocolate" (110). This point is very well illustrated in Henry Jaglom's film, Eating (1990). In the particular scene, a room is filled with about thirty women who are attending a birthday party. The birthday cake is cut and the women, who are arranged in a circle, pass one piece of cake all the way around the room. Every woman touches the plate, but nobody eats the cake. The scene goes to show the women's inhibitions of being perceived as "loose" with food, being the "bad" girl. Eating took the role of women's guilty pleasure, which carried the potential to have devastatingly noticeable effects. Failure to resist the allure of sex was manifested in pregnancy whereas failure to resist the temptations of food results in obesity. In both cases, the evidence is readily apparent to everybody the woman encounters, which fuels the power of shame associated with the acts.

Finally, due to the close parallels between food and sex, eating can be construed as a form of sexual intercourse. The experience begins with anticipation of a good meal, with foreplay initiated by the appearance and aromas of the food. Intercourse takes place in chewing, tasting and savoring, and climaxes in swallowing, all followed by a warm contented sensation. One of the women in Eating demonstrates the association by referring to eating as the "safest sex" she can have.

By replacing sex as women's taboo subject, food has simply changed the location of their guilty pleasures, from genital to oral (Meadow 102). There will continue to be "good" girls and "bad" girls and those stigmatized by their choices. Women will continue to be afraid of publicly discussing the subject of food until the next taboo topic comes about.

Works Cited

Eating. Videotape. Dir. Henry Jaglom. International Rainbow Films, 1990.

Iggers, Jeremy. The Garden of Eating: Food, Sex and the Hunger for Meaning. New York: BasicBooks, 1996.

Meadow, Rosalyn M. and Lillie Weiss. Women's Conflicts About Eating and Sexuality: The Relationship Between Food and Sex. New York: Harrington Press, 1992.

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